Great hair doesn't always come from a bottle of designer shampoo or the skillful hands of a celebrity stylist. Sometimes it's a combination of seemingly inconsequential factors, like when you apply conditioner and a selection of styling aids, that work together in perfect synergy. Once you get it right, it will seem like second nature.
So we asked some of the nation's top stylists and colorists for their best and brightest techniques for getting locks to shine, bounce and otherwise obey your commands. Try the eight-step program they came up with, and you're guaranteed to have plenty of great hair days ahead.
1. Measure your hair’s health. Healthy hair is shiny, supple and silky. If none of these adjectives applies to your locks, take a strand test to identify what could be doing the damage: Pull a wet strand from your scalp and stretch it out. "It should stretch one-fifth of its length without breaking, then bounce back," says Luke O'Connor, owner of the LuKaRo Salon in Beverly Hills, Calif. If it breaks, it's lacking moisture.
If the hair keeps stretching, it's lacking protein, probably due to chemical treatments that have weakened the bonds in each strand -- like color processes, straightening or perms. The right conditioning treatments can help in both cases (see step 5 for some product suggestions).
2. Opt for a cut that has substance as well as style. If your hair takes more than 15 minutes to style and even then seems misshapen, you've got the wrong cut. Next time you go to the salon, meet with your stylist before you shampoo to talk about alternatives that will work with your natural texture.
Also: Consider a cut that flatters your face shape. A square jaw will be softened by a loose, layered cut. Bangs (swept to the side if you don't want to get regular trims) complement a longer face, and a center part balances a round face.
3. Find a hue that’s you. The golden rule of low-maintenance, low-risk, great-looking color is to go one shade brighter or darker than your normal hue. Then you can keep kicking it up a notch, but you won't be in for any big surprises along the way.
Just be sure that whatever shade you choose contrasts with your skin tone: "If everything matches too well, you'll look washed out and need more makeup," says colorist Stuart Gavert of the Gavert Atelier in Beverly Hills and Peter Coppola Salon in New York City.
Finally, if your dye job goes horribly wrong, ask your colorist to fix it. Most salons will grant you a grace period of a week or two to request a free redo.